Monday, April 7, 2014

Western Nebraska Tour (Part 1)

In order to finish off my list item of visiting the top 10 things in Nebraska, my wife and I took a 3-day weekend trip out to western NE. Despite driving a lot on I-80 to Colorado, I had never really seen the western part of the state. We thought it would be a good couple's weekend and see some nice sights. It was a simple weekend getaway sort of trip. I'm breaking this into 2 posts so I can show some pics and talk more about each topic instead of a simple list.

The things we ended up going to see were:
  1. Sandhills cranes
  2. Lake McConaughy
  3. Scottsbluff
  4. Chimney Rock
  5. Carhenge
  6. Sandhills of Nebraska
Below is the route we took:

Day 1

Sandhills Cranes

The Sandhills Cranes stop in Nebraska every year on their migration back north. About 75% of their population stops along the Platte River to plump up before they head further north. Essentially, this means birds everywhere.

We stopped at the Rowe Sanctuary at about 10:00am in the morning. I guess I don't give small towns much credit because I didn't expect much because we were in the middle of nowhere. 10:00am is not the ideal time to see the cranes, because they're out of the river and into the corn fields after the sun rises. Still, it was pretty nice and the sound of the thousands of cranes (whose calls can be heard from miles away) was quite impressive.

Lake McConaughy

The end of March isn't really peak season for Lake McConaughy, but it was interesting nonetheless. Essentially, the only thing to do was to drive around it and hit up the visitors center. During the season, there's, you know, lake stuff to do. Still, it was interesting to learn about the construction of the lake's history and the Ogallala Aquifer. I had no idea how huge the aquifer was until this. Basically all of Nebraska and much of the great plains are on top of this massive underground supply of water.

Driving around the lake was actually a fairly scenic thing to do. I didn't realize that this lake was gigantic, with  about 74 miles of shoreline. I can see why a lot of people head out here during the summer for water sports. One thing I couldn't figure out was why the entire area was full of trailer parks. So, feel free to leave a comment if you have any ideas as to why that might be.


For Friday night, we stayed in Scottsbluff, out in the panhandle of Nebraska. We spent the night in a B&B named Barn Anew. We've never stayed in a B&B before, but based on this place, we will definitely be doing it again. This place is called "Barn Anew" because it used to was a former stable for Percheron horses. The upstairs where the rooms were, was the old hay loft.
The large beams are the original wood from the stables

You get a pretty solid "middle of Nebraska" feeling since it's right in the middle of a bunch of cornfields.
Look closely and you can tell that calf was born just a few minutes ago

The place is right next to Mitchell Pass which is where the Oregon, California, Pony Express, and Fur Trapper trails passed through the bluffs. This is also how they named the 4 rooms. We got to stay in the Pony Express Room.
I stupidly didn't take many pictures of the view Friday thinking I could get more the next day. That was the wrong thing to do.

The couple that runs the place was super nice. The first thing we did was go on a tour and learn all about the artwork they have displayed. They have a lot of native american artwork, both "ancient" and modern designs.

For dinner, we went to the Emporium. Quite frankly, I'm shocked that a place as nice as this was in such a small town (Scottsbluff has about 15,000 people in it). I had a delicious watermelon and beet salad and tomato soup with fancy grilled cheese.

The best part of Barn Anew (and unfortunately the part I didn't take pictures of), was on Friday nights they have jam sessions. A bunch of musicians from around the area get together and play some bluegrass. There were about a dozen people there that night and they would just go around in a circle choosing what song to play. It was just great to sit and listen to these people just have fun with their instruments. Unfortunately, we only stayed for an hour because I kept falling asleep in my chair. I really think Barn Anew should advertise this more. It's something I doubt you can find many other places in the country.

All-in-all, a nice little jaunt out into the country. Fairly laid back and entertaining. I will definitely hit up a couple of these sights again during their "proper" times later in life.

    No comments: